Graham: GOP must pony up emergency border funds or take blame

 

Republicans will take the political fall if they don't provide emergency funds to address the immigrant crisis at the southern border, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Wednesday.

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A number of conservatives on Capitol Hill are pushing back hard against President Obama's request for almost $4 billion to manage the spike of immigrants — thousands of them unaccompanied minors — that's hit the Texas-Mexico border in recent months.

But Graham, a long-time supporter of an immigration system overhaul, said a failure to provide the funds will exacerbate the crisis while handing Obama and the Democrats a political victory ahead of November's midterm elections.

"If we do that, then we’re going to get blamed for perpetuating the problem," Graham told reporters on Wednesday.

Graham said he needs to take a deeper look at Obama's proposal before weighing in on the $3.7 billion package, adding that he wasn't ready yet to get behind any specific policy changes. But he promoted the idea of Democrats and Republicans coming together to approve new funding and to make policy changes that could streamline the deportation process.

"There will be some Republicans who will probably never give in at all," Graham said, adding that some liberals would likely never approve any policy changes.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration requested $3.7 billion to address the wave of immigrants that's overwhelmed the border, flooding detention centers, clogging immigration courts and swamping local governments attempting to manage the tens of thousands of new arrivals.

Obama's proposal includes $1.8 billion for the Health and Human Services Department to provide "appropriate care" for the migrants; $1.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to beef up its border presence; $300 million for the State Department to help stabilize the Central American countries from which many migrants originate; and $64 million for the Justice Department to hire more immigration judges and asylum lawyers.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for a quick approval of the package, but a number of conservative Republicans are balking. Some of those critics are wary that Obama hasn't offset the costs with changes elsewhere in the budget; others oppose spending so much on processing versus deterrent efforts; and still others are questioning the need for Congress to intervene at all.

“I think it’s a charade," Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said Wednesday. "I think the president has set it up to make it look as though the only reason he’s not enforcing the border is that he doesn’t have the money, and that’s not accurate."

Graham emphasized that any policy changes must address the underlying problems, not just treat the symptoms once the immigrants arrive. But for Republicans to do nothing, he cautioned, would be a mistake.

"Money is necessary because it truly is an emergency. Our capacity is being overwhelmed here," Graham said. "But if you don’t address the root cause of the problem, you really accomplish nothing other than throw money at it."